The bond between humans and dogs has evolved immensely since the canines were first domesticated about 15,000 years ago. They were first made a companion animal for purposes such as aiding in hunting with their keen sense of smell or protecting their humans from danger. As time went on, more breeds of dogs began to accumulate as they were crossbred, but still only in a working sense. It was much different from how they are culturally viewed in modern times: a member of the family, a best friend, a confidant to no end. People would rather have dog children then actual babies, they spend tremendous amounts of money at the vet to guarantee their furry friend is happy and healthy. Can you blame them?
Canines are continuously dubbed as "man's best friend." That's exactly what my dog was to me. My family had gotten JD for Christmas of 2003, a tiny boxer puppy whom my father named Jack Daniels after his favorite alcohol. As far back as I could remember, I could recall having JD as my pup as I was only three years old when Santa brought him down from the North Pole. My siblings and I used to go outside in below freezing weather, humming snowballs at each other, while JD tried to catch one in his mouth because he thought we were playing fetch. He would lick my face when he saw tears streaming down my cheeks and even though he had fish breath, it was his way of comforting me. He made my stomach hurt from laughter when he would obnoxiously sneeze and my eyes water when he ate a whole package of ant poison and we had to take him to the vet. He just needed to throw it back up, there was never a fear in me that my best friend would die one day.
As JD got older, it got harder and harder for him to walk up the three steps that led from outside into my house. He was 12 years old and being a boxer, he was prone to hip and joint problems, unfortunately. My sister and I were giving him a bath outside when we noticed a weird substance oozing from his genitals. We got him into the vet that day and his penile issue was diagnosed as a fungal infection, but the vet had noticed something on my best friend's leg. It was a cancerous tumor growing extremely fast that added in his slowed mobility and wobbly feet. The vet concluded that if it grew any bigger, it would snap JD's leg in half and with him being so old, there was a slim chance that he would survive a surgical tumor removal. My mother scheduled an appointment to put my best friend to sleep right in front of me.
It felt like the ground was ripped out from beneath my feet. I knew he was old and I knew that his fur was turning white, but to me, it seemed like my dog could survive anything as long as we're together. He had already lived such a long life for a purebred boxer, who was I to demand more time? I found myself not able to look at him or speak about him as I would burst into tears. Until one day, the realization occurred to me. He was in pain. He was in pain and he was counting on me to make it stop. I spent every waking moment with him, giving him the best last day on the planet.
Jack Daniels was put soundly to sleep on August 17th of 2016.
He was 12 years old.
He would've been 13 in October.
He was my best friend.
He passed away in my arms.
He was loved.
I wasn't able to eat dinner that night or any food for the next few days. It was hard to go downstairs or outside and not have him waiting for me, his tail wagging and his butt shaking. Every time I turned a corner, a part of me longed for him to be sitting there, tilting his head at me. We received his ashes and a stamp of his paw print, he was actually gone. It was my junior year and my teacher decided to do icebreakers. One of the quests was to find someone who had a dog and my friend said, "Oh, you have a dog!" But I didn't. For the first time I could remember, I didn't have a dog.
It hurt for a long while and it still does, but like with any loss, you learn to live with the pain. There were many who gave me side glances, thinking he was just a dog and I was overreacting. It felt like I had lost a member of my family because that's what he was. Imagine losing your best pal and you made the decision to pull the plug, you were in there in the room. When we put JD down, that was the first and only time I have ever seen my dad or my brother cry. What I am trying to say is that losing a dog deserves as much attention and grief as a human death. Any pet death deserves the same amount. It's difficult and affects humans the same way. Please don't tell someone that it's not a big deal when they lost a piece of their heart.
Until we meet again over the rainbow bridge, bubba.